Since 1982, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has been using Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). Thanks to many advanced technologies in their development, stringent quality controls in the manufacturing and several administrative protections throughout their use, they are completely tamper-proof. Successful use of the EVMs has earned a trusted global reputation in conducting elections.
EVMs were originally developed and designed by the Technical Experts Committee (TEC) of the Election Commission in collaboration with two Public Sector undertakings viz., Bharat Electronics Ltd. and Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd., Hyderabad. EVMs in use in India are manufactured by the above two undertakings.
What is an electronic voting machine?
Electronic Voting Machine(EVM) is an electronic vote recording device. An EVM consists of two parts, a Control Unit and a Ballot Unit, connected by a cable of about five metres. The Control Unit is placed with the Presiding Officer or Polling Officer and the Ballot Unit is located inside the booth.
Rather than issuing a ballot paper, the Polling Officer in charge will release a ballot by pressing the Control Unit’s ballot button. This then allows the voter to cast his vote by pressing the blue button against the candidate and the symbol of his choice on the balloting device.
How to cast your vote using an EVM? Step-by-Step Instructions
- Enter the booth. The presiding officer will enable the ballot unit while you enter the polling compartment.
- Cast your vote. Press the Blue Button on the Ballot Unit against the name/symbol of candidate of your choice.
- Check the light. The red light against the name or symbol of the candidate you have chosen will glow.
- See the print. The printer will print a ballot slip containing Serial number, Name and Symbol of your chosen candidate.
- The slip will be visible for 7 seconds. You have to check the print through the glass panel on the Ballot unit as the printout will not be given to you.
- The slip will then be automatically cut and fall into the collection bin.
- You should contact the presiding officer if you don’t see the ballot slip and hear a loud beep instead.
Salient Features of EVMs
- EVMs were first used in the 70-Paravur Assembly Constituency of Kerala in the year 1982.
- EVMs do not require electricity. EVMs run on regular batteries, assembled by Bharat Electronics Limited/Electronics Corporation of India Limited.
- An EVM being used by ECI can record a maximum of 2,000 votes.
- M3 EVM devices (that were introduced post 2013) can cater to a maximum of 384 candidates including NOTA by connecting 24 Balloting Units.
- The Control Unit can store the result in its memory until the data is deleted or cleared.
- The lifespan of an EVM is 15 years & even more and votes recorded in the Control Unit can be stored up to its lifetime until it is cleared.
What is VVPAT?
Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent system attached to the Electronic Voting Machines that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast to the candidate that they chose on the Ballot Unit.
When a vote is cast, the VVPAT prints a slip that includes the candidate’s serial number, name, and symbol and remains exposed for around 7 seconds through a transparent window. This slip is then automatically cut and falls into the sealed VVPAT drop box. The slips remain locked and can be audited by the Courts.
Using Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) with the EVM further enhances the transparency and legitimacy, as voters can check that their votes are cast as expected. Slips from five polling stations randomly picked up in each Parliamentary Constituency / Assembly Segment are also counted and compared to the EVM count.
What are the advantages of using EVMs?
Transparency and Accuracy
It completely eliminates the possibility of casting ‘Invalid Votes’ which was noticed in large numbers at each election during the paper ballot regime. In addition, the number of ‘Invalid Votes’ significantly surpassed the winning margin in many cases, leading to various complaints and litigations. Thus EVMs permitted a more accurate and precise representation of the electorate’s choice.
Eliminates the Cost of Printing Ballots
EVMs have greatly reduced the cost of printing ballot paper to be given to every voter. Through the use of EVMs, printing millions of ballot papers for any election is eliminated as only one ballot paper is needed for fixing on the Balloting Device at each polling station instead of one ballot paper for each individual elector. This results in tremendous savings on paper, printing, shipping, storage and distribution costs.
Time Saving during Counting
Another great advantage is time-saving achieved with counting of votes. The counting process is very fast and unlike the conventional ballot paper system, the result can be declared within 3 to 5 hours as against 30-40 hours on average.
Components of an EVM & VVPAT
The EVM consists of a Control Unit (CU) and a Ballot Unit (BU) and their cables for connection.
The CU is managed by the Presiding Officer while BU and VVPAT are held in the voting compartment.
Technical Security Features of EVMs
- EVMs are stand-alone devices, and are not remotely accessible.
- The software program is programmed a single time in Control Unit (CU), Ballot Unit (BU) and VVPAT, and is neither readable nor re-writable.
- The program is developed and approved by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) which consists of eminent professors from different IITs.
- Testing by a third party is undertaken by the Directorate of Standardisation Testing and Quality Compliance (STQC).
- Each key on EVMs is signed in with the time and date stamp in the system and is available for examination by the Courts.
Administrative Measures for the Security of EVMs
- The EVMs are kept under double lock and key, and under the protection of the police.
- Functionality reviews are carried out in the presence of political parties and their members (First Stage Checking).
- Protection seals are also placed in the presence of leaders of the political parties.
- Each EVM undergoes a total of 3 Mock Polls before being included in an election.
- Random allocation of EVMs and VVPATs is made by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to assembly constituencies and polling stations through the EVM Management System. Randomization is always conducted in the presence of political parties / candidates.
Role of Political Parties and Candidates
Political parties, Candidates, and their Agents play a significant role in the First Level Checking of EVMs and VVPATs. They are included during various processes like the Randomisation of EVMs and VVPATs while allocating them according to the Assembly Constituency and polling station, commissioning of EVMs and VVPATs, use of EVMs and VVPATs in polling stations and storage of EVMs and VVPATs.
Security measures for Polled EVMs/VVPATs
- Unique BUs, CUs & VVPAT IDs are exchanged with candidates / political parties.
- Sealing of CU and BU with Pink Paper Seals at FLC and Commissioning on which political parties and candidates place their signatures, respectively.
- Sealing of EVMs / VVPATs before actual polling starts, on which polling agents also place their signatures.
- Seals on the cases carrying EVMs / VVPAT once the poll closes, on which polling agents have placed their signatures.
- Double locking system is enabled at the strong room door where candidates put their own seals as well.
- CCTV feeds of the heavy room to the Candidates Camping Area.
- Two Cordoned round-the-clock security (Inner perimeter staffed by CAPF and State Armed Police’s Outer perimeter).
- Log-book and video of officers who check the two cordons regularly.
- Security arrangement of 24/7 for unused EVMs.
EVMs have become an integral part of elections in India. They have not only reduced the cost of printing ballot paper but also have brought added transparency and legitimacy to elections.